That's from Chapter 6. I'm getting used to these F. Scott Fitzgerald sentences (as I continue with this Gatsby project, taking one sentence out of context every day). Each one — so far — has a little narrative arc, with perhaps a missing center or a surprising ending. In today's sentence, we see a process of inflation and then deflation.
"Gatsby’s notoriety" — Gatsby has fame. He's big. We begin this sentence with bigness. The word "notoriety" tends to refer to a negative sort of fame. For example, E.M. Forster, in "Room with a View," wrote: "Mrs. Honeychurch... would abandon every topic to inveigh against those women who (instead of minding their houses and their children) seek notoriety by print." Imagine what she would think about blogger ladies.
But back to Gatsby. He's got notoriety — which is bigness — and it spreads. It gets bigger.
It is spread about by the hundreds — now the sense of inflation comes not in the form of the great Gatsby but the hundreds, the horde of people. Who are they? They are the ones who "had accepted his hospitality," so there's an inference of big parties. In moving from Gatsby to the hundreds, we see a transaction occurring. Gatsby is giving hospitality and getting fame-spreading. The fame comes in the form that he wants. It's a joke to say that these people are "authorities on his past." Drawn to his parties, they got loaded with the stories he wanted told. He plied them, got them drunk with an illusion of authority, which motivates them to spread Gatsby's PR. And they spread it successfully because of their belief in the stories they are telling. The hundreds desire inflated size too, and if they are authorities, they have it, and they seem to love to go about in the world, flaunting their bigness, even as they are dupes for Gatsby, increasing his notoriety.
Notice the progression of -ity/-ety words in the sentence: notoriety, hospitality, authority. There's poetry to the sound alone, but the similarity of these words makes us feel a logic to the mechanism operating here. Hospitality promotes authority and thus notoriety.
We finally arrive at the verb of this sentence: increased. If we were diagramming this sentence, we'd build around notoriety | increased. The bigness got bigger. We've arrived at the peak of the narrative arc, where we get to stay all summer until — "until" is the word that warns of change — he fell. He fell! We are plummeting into the back end of this arc. He fell just short. Where's our bigness now? We get our 2 jarring smallness words: fell and short. And now we arrive at the punchline: just short of being news.
He was so big, he had his hundreds and his notoriety — increasing all summer — but in the end, how big was he? He didn't break the surface of the public consciousness. He wasn't news.